If I was hired to do a job on a vehicle and then after the job is done the owner was nowhere to be found, can I keep it until I am paid?

I was hired to do some work on the car. I did the work but now the owner of the car doesn’t want to pay me, I won’t give it back to them until they pay me. Is that legal?

Asked on August 29, 2016 under Business Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, you cannot, not unless there was some written agreement specifically giving you the right to retain the car until paid. Without such an agreement, it would be a form of theft to keep the car. That does not mean that you do not have recourse: you may, for example, sue the car's owner (such as in small claims court, acting as your own attorney, or "pro se," to save on legal fees) for what she owes you.

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